Date: 06 Jun 2009
Commentary on Sections of Barack Hussein Obama’s
Cairo Speech to the Islamic World
Zartoist (Zarathystra) is the psedonyme of Iranian-American scholar of Philosophy and Religion and a former believer in Obama’s now hollow slogans of “Hope” and “Change”
I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum.
The Al-Azhar madrassah – the “beacon of Islamic learning” at which Obama is “honored” to speak – has trained, and is currently training, many fundamentalist Islamic scholars who assert the incompatibility of Islam with certain basic human rights – such as the complete legal equality of women, and freedom of religion. Its scholars have even debated the question of whether female genital mutilation is permitted in Islam, with some taking the view that while it is not obligatory under Islamic Law, the tradition of Islamic legal scholarship also makes it clear that the practice does not carry any criminal penalty whatsoever.
Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust..
The view that Islam is “inevitably hostile… to human rights” is not an outcome of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. This view predates 9/11 both among scholars and the public, and whether it is true or false should be based on a rigorous comparative analysis of the Quran and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR was rejected at its very inception by Saudi Arabia, and was explicitly rejected by the Iranian Ambassador to the UN after the Islamic Revolution in that country. It is a fact that the majority of Muslims, as represented by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, have rejected the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The OIC drafted a “Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam” as an alternative to the un-Islamic UN UDHR. A careful analysis of this document – which claims Shaira (Islamic Law) as it sole source – demonstrates the Islamic rejection of basic human rights, including, for example, the equal legal rights of women and freedom of religion and conscience (especially for secular atheists or believers in atheistic religions such as Buddhism).
So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.
I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles - principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
The United States of America is a political state, Islam is a religious faith – or so we are told. If that were true, the entire premise of a President of the United States making a policy speech (and it is in fact, a formal policy speech, with numerous policy announcements and proposals) on the relationship of the United States to Muslims or of the relationship between “America and Islam” is not only logically incoherent, it is also a departure from constitutional norms of the separation of Religion and State – to a degree that verges on treason.
However, the case is not so simple. Obama’s speech tacitly acknowledges what he and others (including G.W. Bush) publicly deny – that, unlike Christianity (which was only co-opted for political purposes) Islam is an INHERENTLY POLITICAL religion, that it is a (albeit ill-defined) State, on a par with the government of the United States of America. Obama claims that “In Ankara, I made clear that America is not - and never will be - at war with Islam.”, however, if Islam is a State, then we ARE at war with Islam.
In summary, either Obama is violating the constitutional separation of religion and state in this policy speech, or he is either deluded concerning who the political enemy is in the so-called “War on Terror”.
Question: If a trans-national cohort of Islamic terrorists based in the “lawless” regions of Pakistan (actually, they are under Islamic Law, not “lawless”) were to succeed in detonating a nuclear weapon in New York or Washington, would we retaliate by nuking Islamabad (the capital of Pakistan), or by nuking Mecca or Medina? What if the perpetrators were Hezbollah terrorists from Lebanon and Shiite Iraq, using a nuclear weapon smuggled (illegally) out of Iran by rogue agents of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard? Would we retaliate by nuking Beirut, Baghdad, and Tehran – or Mecca/Medina? The answer to this type of question goes a long way in determining whether or not, pragmatically and in effect, the US government considers Islam a personal faith or an ill-defined sovereign State (with its capital in Mecca, or Medina).
There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” That is what I will try to do - to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.
First of all, it should become clear in the course of this Response that in this speech Obama is doing everything but speaking “the truth”. Secondly, and in support of the point I’ve just made, to quote the “Holy” Quran to the effect that we should always speak the truth is either imbecilic or Orwellian. Obviously, any “revealed” organized religion, especially one that claims the eternal unchanging validity of its laws, is not interested in unfettered intellectual debate – in ‘seeking out the truth wherever it may lead’, which is presumably what Obama claims to be interested in doing. “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth” – well, what if “the truth” is, for example, that there is no God (as Buddhists believe), or at least not the God of Abraham (as Hindus, or Christian Gnostics believe)?
As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam - at places like Al-Azhar University - that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.
Someone who has really studied the history of interaction between the Greco-Roman civilization and, on the one hand, Hellenized Egypt and on the other, Pre-Islamic Persia, could make a good argument that Islam actually hindered the progress of civilization. All indications are that “the light of learning”, namely of Greek and Roman civilization, was already being preserved and would have been preserved, in the Middle East – especially in Persia – to the same if not a greater extent than it was after the violent Islamic conquest of the Persian civilization (a civilization that already had over a thousand years of fruitful interaction with the Greek-inspired civilizations of the West).
It is also a fact that most of the scientific “innovation in Muslim communities” cited by Obama, from Algebra to Medicine, was the product of (mostly Persian) free-thinkers who were not believing Muslims – scientists like Omar Khayyam, Ibn Razi, and Ibn Sina – who only wrote their scientific treatises in Arabic (rather than their native Persian) on account of the Arab occupation of Iran.
We do not call “Gothic architecture” Christian, do we? The great architecture of Iran, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, and northern India is no more “Islamic”. It is an amalgam of ancient Persian, Byzantine and Indian styles – one that was already arising during the Sassanian Persian Empire (which extended from India to Turkey). The only “Islamic” contribution to this architecture was to prohibit the incorporation of paintings – since depiction of human beings is forbidden in Islam. Incidentally, this stunted the entire development of painting in the sphere of Persian civilization, which had a rich tradition of pictorial art before the Islamic conquest and may well have developed it to the level of modern Europe.
As for poetry and music, most of the great “Islamic” poets (again mostly Persians) were considered heretics by Islamic authorities, and music is prohibited in Islam as a vain “useless” activity. Poetry and music survived in civilizations such as Persia DESPITE Islam. A careful study of the history of Sufism will reveal its roots in attempts by persecuted pre-Islamic Gnostics in Persia and Egypt, to ensure the survival of their esoteric wisdom by exoterically cloaking themselves in Islamic garb. While many of them ultimately wound up believing their own dissimulation, scholars of Islamic law have never been fooled – that is why they executed Halaj and Suhrawardi, and why the poetry of no less a genius than Nizami (the Persian analog to Shakespeare or Spenser) is censored in Iran today!!!
I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers - Thomas Jefferson - kept in his personal library.
John Adams could only make such a statement because at the time he made it, he and another leading American politicians, believed that persons upholding the economic legitimacy of slavery and maintaining the legal oppression of women also had “no character of enmity” to the laws of the United States. It is not surprising if Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States, because the United States was, on the face of it (though not at its legal core), very Islamic in its founding days. I have in mind not only the support of many of the founders for slavery and their lack of interest in guaranteeing women equal rights (a subject which, by contrast, WAS seriously debated during the contemporary French Revolutionary), but also some of the founders’ views of God, such as their rejection of the Trinity in favor of absolute divine Unity, and their rejection of the personal divinity of Jesus.
What all of this overlooks is that THE UNITED STATES HAS CHANGED. John Adams would certainly be turning in his grave, so to speak. As for Thomas Jefferson, an examination of his letters (including ones critical of Adams) show that he believed that the purpose of freedom of religion and separation of Religion and State was to allow the conditions for everyone to become educated enough to abandon organized religion within two generations of his time. Jefferson was convinced that by the end of the 19th century, the Untied States would be an entirely Unitarian Universalist country. He would be appalled that a congressman in the 21st century took the oath to defend the constitution with his hand on the Quran, or for that matter, that any American politician takes an oath of office with his hand placed on the Bible. Jefferson writes that such a future, in which sectarian differences have not been educated out of mankind by a secular state, would demonstrate the failure of the very idea of the United States.
It is appalling that Obama, a constitutional scholar, either does not know this, or is willing to twist the truth of his nation’s history to this extent, for such dubious ends. What Jefferson believed in (and Adams did not) is that the United States is an evolving experiment in the progress of the human mind. To equate this in any way with Islam, by suggesting a fundamental similarity of principles is to denigrate the United States in the worst possible way, and it is especially shocking for it come from a man whose election reflects the greatest progressive change in the evolution of the United States – namely the abolition of slavery in the civil war, an institution which IS legally allowed in the Quran, regulated by the Quran, and the criminalization of which is prohibited by the Quran (by prohibiting the modification of any of its prescribed laws). (On slavery: see Quran 16:71 and 75; 23:1–6; and on the fixity of Quranic law: 5:44-45, 6:114–116, 43:2, 85:21–22, 86:12–14, and especially verses 2:85, 2:174–177, and 5:3).
So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.
Again, as discussed above, to speak of a “partnership between America and Islam” is either unconstitutional, or it is tacitly asserting the statehood of Islam. In the latter case it would render Obama’s position self-vitiating. Furthermore, with the vast ignorance or deliberate deception already documented above, who is Obama to decide what are “negative stereotypes of Islam” as opposed to difficult truths which he might like to suppress, perhaps toward the end of earning a Nobel Peace Prize or of leading the UN after his 8 years are over?
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.
So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations - to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.
It is not true that “freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion”. Religious freedom is limited by the caveat that for something to qualify as a “religion” it has to lay no claim to making or enforcing law. John Locke made this clear, and Jefferson and Madison followed him on this. Islam does lay a claim to make and enforce law – in the Quran itself. Read it!
In Islam “to love…God” is not sufficient. Barring total forgiveness (which IS encouraged in Islam), God’s decreed laws and only those laws must be enforced – the Quran is unambiguous on this (5:44-45, 6:114–116, 43:2, 85:21–22, 86:12–14, and especially verses 2:85, 2:174–177, and 5:3), and these laws do not treat people of different genders, religions, and stations in life, equally. Any ambiguous metaphorical verses are clearly differentiated from the 500 or so legal verses. (3:6–7)
Therefore the second whole paragraph above is totally incoherent. Its ending, with the presumption that “This is the hope of all humanity”, simply compounds the contradiction, and insults human beings who do not believe in any God – some of whom, such as Buddhists, are on the whole more peaceful and inclined to social harmony than Abrahamic believers.
Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths - more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism - it is an important part of promoting peace.
The “Holy” Koran may state as much, but whom it defines as “innocent” or “guilty” is at odds with our American civil liberties and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To give just one example, an “adulterous” woman is to be subject to a life-sentence of forcible confinement to her home (stoning women is not actually grounded in extant Quranic text). I put adulterous in quotes because in Islam, it is perfectly legal for a man to have sexual relations with more than one woman at the same time, so long as they are wives or concubines enslaved in war – so why shouldn’t a woman sleep with another man than her one husband? (4:16, 23:1–6; 4:16, 23:1–6)
The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.
Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.
Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one’s own faith by the rejection of another’s. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld - whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.
Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.
Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit - for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.
Indeed, faith should bring us together. That is why we are forging service projects in America that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews.. That is why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s Interfaith dialogue and Turkey’s leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into Interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action - whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.
The Quran makes it clear that Jews and Christians are only entitled to freedom of religion if they pay tribute (i.e. taxes) to Muslim authorities and accept military subjugation by Muslims. (9:29) While these “people of the book” fare relatively well, Muslims who convert to Christianity, or people belonging to non-Abrahamic religions, whether polytheistic (Hinduism) or atheistic (Buddhism) are not to be tolerated. (9:5) The Taliban could not even stand to have a Buddhist monument (already badly scarred and defaced by medieval Muslims) in a Muslim country where it was not liable to be spiritually revered by anyone. They blew up the rock-carved Bamian Buddhas. Did the Buddhists start massacring Muslims? What would Muslims do if some group of persons blew up the rock at the center of the Kaaba shrine in Mecca?
Obama claims to “welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s Interfaith dialogue”. Saudi Arabia is the home and breeding ground of exactly the type of (Wahabi and Salafi) fundamentalists who do not think that even ancient monuments that are “idolatrous” should be left intact. These are people who would blow up the monuments of Ancient Egypt if they could. Saudi Arabia is the Islamic country that most austerely enforces Quranic laws – often in grotesque public displays of beheading and amputation. It is a country where women are terribly oppressed under the law, and where there is no religious freedom whatsoever! To “welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah’s Interfaith dialogue” is either terribly naïve or a piece of crude con-artistry.
The sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.
I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.
Now let me be clear: issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.
Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity - men and women - to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams..
The Quran denies legal equality for women, and it decrees its legal injunctions timeless and unchangeable. Period. Look it up. Women are denied equal rights in marriage and at its dissolution, and if “disobedient”, a woman may be beaten by her husband. (4:11, 4:34) The legal testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man (even in rape cases) because, compared to men, women are mentally incompetent (2:282). Biological constraints of impurity prohibit women form holding religious or political office (which are one and the same). (2:222) Adulterous men are to be forgiven if they repent, but adulterous women are to be mercilessly condemned. (4:16) None of this can ever be changed short of committing the worst kind of heretical apostasy. (6:114–116, 43:2, 85:21–22, 86:12–14, and especially verses 2:85, 2:174–177, and 5:3).
And what, in light of all this, does Obama do? He talks about headscarves, and how he is going to punish anyone who doesn’t let American schoolgirls wear them.
I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations - including my own - this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities - those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.
But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.
Japan and South Korea are among the least religious countries in the world. For them, modernization has definitely meant secularization. Also their traditional religions are not at all comparable with Islam in terms of obstacles to modernization. If anyone thinks some of the analogies I have been making or the examples that I have been employing are wanting, they are certainly of a higher standard than Obama’s. Malaysia and the UAE have seen very superficial industrial and technological development, but are in fact very unstable and at risk of domestic rebellions and traditional Islamic resentment at what takes place in cities like Dubai and Kuala Lampur. Support for Osama bin Laden is particularly high among the disaffected Malaysian population and two of the 9/11 hijackers were from the UAE (most were Obama’s “interfaith” friends, the Saudis).
And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement…
On education, we will expand exchange programs…
On economic development, we will create…
And today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio.
Obama claims the US focus on oil and gas is “in the past” – why then, did he go and visit the King of the heinous fundamentalist Islamic Saudi regime right before his Cairo speech – in his words “to seek his majesty’s council”? Why did Obama submissively bow to this Tyrant – an unprecedented act, something that even Bush, with all of his economic ties to the Saudis, never did? Why is the United States still buying oil from Saudi Arabia at all! This is not even consistent with promoting a “moderate” or “reformed” Islam – if such a thing were possible.
I know there are many - Muslim and non-Muslim - who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn’t worth the effort - that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country - you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.
The Quran clearly binds Muslims to obey its legal verses forever, until its purported Judgment day – and, for the nth time, these are incompatible with human rights or individual liberties. Any ‘reformed’, ‘progressive’ Islam is a lie. One may argue that there are well-intentioned and useful lies, but that is another question, and it requires first admitting that something IS a lie. If we wanted a Straussian President, we’d have had Cheney stay on.
What about the “young people” who are eager to reject Islam and everything it stands for, young people in Iran who are in prisons being tortured at this moment? Why not address them, look out for them, and defend them. I suppose they are among those “eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress”? Actually, their empowerment is the only way to progress, and at least in Iran, there are enough of them to actually bring about such progress, if only THEY are supported – rather than the Saudi “interfaith” dialogue.
But Obama wants to see “Islamic democracies” in the Middle East, not undemocratic Secular Republics that protect individual liberties at any cost to an oppressive majority. Obama wants reform of the Islamic Republic of Iran (a government that has been stoning “immoral” women and children for 30 years), not a radically secular liberty-promoting revolution in Iran that would do worse to Islam than the French Revolution did to Christians (and Catholics in particular) during the brief reign of the “Cult of Reason”.
Obama does not want a real beacon of liberty to arise in the Islamic world, because, that would mean war with the Islamic world – from within. That brings us to the next and final passage…
It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path.
Can’t it be that sometimes, the “right path” is to admit irreconcilable conflict and the “easy path” is to attempt to whitewash differences to such an extent that one completely compromises one’s integrity and collapses any last shred of distinction between “truth” and “untruth”. Granted, ‘reality’ is NOT black and white. You might not suspect that you are reading the writings of a kind of pragmatist. However, Islam DOES see the world in black and white – absolute Good and absolute Evil – the Dar-al-Islam (the Realm of Islam) and Dar-al-Harb (the Realm of War, meaning, of the conquest of non-Muslims). To deny that is not pragmatism – it is a delusion that leads to a dangerous policy of appeasement. One must understand the enemy on his own terms.
There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples - a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions.. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.
We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.
The Holy Koran tells us, “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”
The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”
The Holy Bible tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you.
“The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.” What about the divinely ordained Jewish holocaust of the Canaanites, the native inhabitants of what became “Israel” – the Lord’s War in the Book of Joshua? What about Moses’ slaughter of 3,000 men, women, and children, simply for their having carried out peaceful pagan rites to a golden calf? Or the Holy Wars of the general, Muhammad, to spread Islam by force in his own day?
Islam is not compatible with the Golden Rule. This is clear from verse (48:29) that says: “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah; and those who are with him are harsh against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other.” The Quran is full of verses such as this that encourage the believers to treat the non believers harshly and mistreat them. See this article.
All indications from the gospels are that Jesus was a pacifist. (And don’t quote the “bring a sword” passage – anyone who actually reads it will see that it is referring to a true believer’s alienation from his or her family members.) Whether Jesus’ teachings square with Judaism before him, or Islam after him is another question altogether! There is a defensible scholarly view that Jesus was a Gnostic teacher who rejected Judaism, and that canonical Christianity and Islam have perverted Jesus’ message and assimilated him into the Abrahamic tradition that he preached against.
This is NOT a modern or post-modern view. It was the view of the Manichean Mazdakites and Neo-Mazdakites in Iran just before and after the Islamic conquest (c. 700 ad). It was also the view of the Cathars, the Bogomils, and other Christian Gnostics in Medieval Europe. The Mazdakites, and other entirely pacifistic and defenseless Iranian Manicheans, were massacred by Muslims (except for those who pretended to be “esoteric Muslims” and planted the seeds for “Sufism”). The Catholic Inquisition was founded not initially to persecute Jews or Muslims, but to exterminate the Cathars and other Christian Gnostics in the south of France and South-eastern Europe.
Obama wants to collapse all of the distinctions of the Abrahamic religions into one whitewashed peace-loving pill that he expects the Islamic world (and we, in the west) to swallow. That has been tried. It’s called the “Baha’i Faith”. While well intentioned, it certainly did not go over well in the Islamic world. In Iran, where it originated, Bahais are executed for their beliefs, and their graves have even been dug up and overturned. The religion was forced into exile. No Islamic nation would accept them, essentially because – though they whitewash and honor Muhammad – they believe that the Quran – as it stands – is not the final word. They are now based in Haifa, Israel – the country that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s president has vowed to “wipe off” the map of the world.
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